After a very bumpy ride from Monteverde in Costa Rica, we got onto the longest road in the world, the Pan American Highway – the 2nd time for us in 3 months as we drove along it in California, but here it was called the Pacific Coast Highway.  It was bliss to be on a paved road again.  We crossed into the Nicaraguan border at Penas Blancas and have never encountered a more lax border crossing.  We then drove onto Granada, a beautiful old colonial town with colourful buildings and a real Latin American feel.  Our hotel, Plaza Colon, looks directly over the cathedral in the main square and outside the front of the hotel is the taxi rank – horses and carts.  A great place with a real backpacker vibe and really cheap prices – a delicious mojito cost £1 and the local beer is good and cheap too.  The area where we’re staying has really nice cheap places to eat and good bars. Granada is a great place to stay as there are several volcanoes, lakes and other things to do in the immediate area. We went around the rim of an active volcano called Massaya, luckily it was only smoking at the time…. See pictures below.

 

Managua is perhaps not a place you would like to stay (a few people we met lost possessions there…) but it would be rude not to see the capital whilst we were there so took a trip in. On our ride into Managua, we passed laden carts some pulled by oxen, others by horses.  We learned a lot about the history of Nicaragua, the war which raged for 17 years and the tragic earthquakes.  It’s quite strange as this brings back memories of news broadcasts from years ago about the Nicaragua “Contras” and the “Sandanistas”. The average monthly salary is $300 and there is poverty everywhere, but the people are extremely friendly and welcoming.  In some places there is a huge security presence, with guards carrying pump action shotguns a normal sight.  We visited the very colourful local market, which sold, among other things, live iguanas, a delicacy!! Fortunately, their jaws were tied together so no chance of getting bitten, apparently locals eat iguana during periods of fasting and religious festivals as there is nothing in the bible saying not to eat iguana… See pictures below.

 

An early start from Granada and a short flight past Chaparristique, the active volcano in El Salvador, will get us to Guatemala. We’ve managed to get on line and book seats on the right or starboard side of the plane hoping we will see it all happening. Unfortunately it may be pot luck which side gets the views but we worked on the basis that San Miguel was directly in the flight path so the pilot would be more likely to fly over the water than hills for clear air, but we guess it depends on the wind. Really looking forward to this as lots of people enthuse about Guatemamla!

Please click here to view videos of the markets and volcanoes